The Great Naturalists Explore South America

The Great Naturalists Explore South America

The Great Naturalists Explore South America

The Great Naturalists Explore South America

Excerpt

The most extensive tract of virgin forest in the world lies equatorially located in South America. It extends from the Atlantic to the Andes and from the Brazilian state of Matto Grasso to the Caribbean Sea. More than a third of Brazil, practically all of the Guianas, much of Venezuela and Colombia, liberal portions of eastern Ecuador and Peru, and a generous section of northern Bolivia are covered by it. The immensity of this region is not fully comprehended unless a journey is made by land and by water, or by water alone--for that is possible--from one side of it to the other; a journey such as that from Puerto Maldonado on the Madre de Dios of Peru to Ciudad Bolívar on the Orinoco. This forest is not a solid mass of vegetation from end to end; here and there are interspersed treeless oases, some of them like our northern plains and meadows and of considerable scope. Neither is the densely wooded part all jungle --a word too often applied to any or all parts of the equatorial forest. Much of the tropical forest in South America clearly deserves that term but its universal application must be objected to on the ground that there are great areas resembling neither the thicket nor the tangle characteristic of the true jungle. Immense regions are open woods through which a traveler may wander with as much freedom and ease as in a beech forest of New England. Other sections bordering the large streams are covered with water during several months of the year, and these no more deserve the appellation "jungle" than do the open woods. On the other hand a South American jungle to many people is not jungle unless it fairly reeks with boa constrictors, slithering crocodiles, and naked savages.

The statement is made from time to time that there is no land left on our planet to explore. Perhaps the most striking feature of this boundless forest is the fact that vast expanses of it are entirely unexplored. Exploration of it in the past has been, for the most part, a matter of travel up and down the various rivers drain-

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